Rebels in a region of northwestern Chad that has been hit by unrest since gold was discovered there, have rejected government demands to lay down their weapons.
“We categorically refuse to be disarmed, given that the reasons why we took up arms against the authorities have not been addressed,” said Molly Sougui, a spokesman for the so-called self-defence committee in Miski.
Miski and neighbouring Kouri Bougoudi in the Tibesti region bordering Libya have been troubled by violence since gold was discovered there in 2012 and 2013.
Miners have rushed in from around Chad and abroad, leading to friction over access to lucrative sites. At least 30 miners have been killed and more than 200 wounded, according to Chadian rights activists.
The government has given authorisation to several mining companies to exploit the deposits.
In August, it carried out a military operation aimed at “clearing out” illegal miners and stopping cross-border incursions from Chadian rebels holed up in Libya.
In November, local inhabitants formed self-defence committees in an act of defiance.
On Sunday, Security Minister Mahamat Abba Ali Salah, on a visit to Kouri Bougoudi, announced what he called the “disarmament of the entire population and a strict ban on gold mining” in the region.
The minister also announced the closure of Chad’s border with Libya.
Tibesti “has become a crossroads for all criminals, terrorists and rebels,” he said.
The move came a month after anti-government insurgents holed up in Libya crossed the border into northeastern Chad, only to be stopped by French airstrikes.
Northern Chad, a desert region, is closely tied to southern Libya, from which it gets most of its food supply.